Relentless Strikers Push On

Jul 07, 2012 by

Matt Thurtell maintained his three goals per game average against Bundaberg SpiritThe Brisbane Strikers looked every inch the irresistible force tonight, turning on a performance labelled by opposition coach Peter Martin as “awesome” in ruthlessly disposing of an under-strength Bundaberg Spirit 6-1 at Meakin Park.

Matt Thurtell kept up his almost unbelievable scoring average against the Spirit – notching another hat trick – while Chris Di Sipio, Greg King and Sean Burke got the other goals for the Strikers before substitute Elliot Causer bagged a late consolation goal for a Bundaberg side who were missing five first-team regulars and who, although never in the contest, never gave up and showed glimpses of the improved football that has lifted them off the foot of the QSL table this season.

The game was only six minutes old when the home side struck the first blow with a goal crafted virtually exclusively by captain and centre half Nick Robinson. Striding forward from the centre circle with the ball at his feet, with the Strikers camped inside the Bundaberg half, Robinson simply clapped on the pace with the Bundaberg midfielders hesitating, and rode a couple of challenges before bursting through the visitors’ defensive line on the edge of their penalty area. Robinson closed in almost as far as the six-yard box to draw Bundaberg goalkeeper Jason McKewan off his line, before squaring the ball across the goalmouth to the unmarked Matt Thurtell, who turned the ball into the empty net for the simplest of finishes.

With the Strikers continuing to dominate the opening minutes with crisp passing and quick movement that the visitors struggled to come to terms with, it was not long before the second breakthrough was achieved.

Winger Sean Burke received a pass out near the right touchline about thirty metres out, turned inside and slid a pass to midfielder Chay Hews, who clipped the ball first-time over the Spirit’s static defensive line which again was camped on the edge of its own penalty area. Both Thurtell and Di Sipio had anticipated Hews’s intentions and had run through from onside positions to be under the midfielder’s pass as it came down, and Di Sipio reacted sharpest to drive a low shot to the right of the advancing McKewan and into his net to make the score 2-0.

At this stage of the game Bundaberg had barely escaped their own half, but they very nearly reduced the deficit three minutes later when forward Brendan Davis stole possession from Strikers centre half Alex Henderson twenty-five metres out from the Strikers’ goal. Davis quickly fed the ball inside to midfielder Brendan Griffin, whose first-time shot had goalkeeper David Chambers beaten but skewed away inches to the right of his left-hand upright.

As the Strikers continued to dictate proceedings left winger Greg King missed the target narrowly with a twenty-metre volley from a knee-high corner kick aimed in his direction by Hews. But King didn’t have to wait long to make amends. From the resulting goal kick, McKewan hit a flat clearance straight to the head of an opponent just inside the Bundaberg half. The header was aimed straight into the path of King, who needed no invitation to hit the accelerator pedal with a defender in hot, but futile, pursuit as King sped into the Spirit’s penalty area to beat McKewan with a powerful low drive.

With only twenty-one minutes gone and the visitors already facing a 3-0 deficit things threatened to spiral out of control for them as the Strikers’ accurate passing, quick-fire combinations and off-the-ball movement continued to make them chase shadows. Hews, Sipi and Burke combined in another display of one-touch passing to create a further opening for Thurtell, who blasted a volley inches wide, before Bundaberg created a couple of half-chances on the counter-attack – the first of which was snuffed out by forceful defending by Robinson on Davis, and the second of which saw Joel Haack stretching out for a shot as the ball was crossed from the right, only to pick out Chambers who gathered the ball cleanly.

Bundaberg seemed to have steadied their listing ship as the half drew to a close, but then a moment’s inattention cost them dearly just before the break. The Strikers again attacked down their right flank through fullback Lorenzo Sipi, who weaved his way past a defender as he cut inside from the touchline to find midfielder Michael Angus with a pass. Angus then clipped the ball towards the Spirit’s penalty area to find Thurtell, whose shot was brilliantly saved with his legs by McKewan. But the danger was not yet over for the Spirit, who fell asleep as King ran on to the ball wide on the left and was allowed to cross to the near post where Thurtell, having kept his concentration after his shot was saved, was positioned to head the ball past McKewan for his second goal.

A minute later Thurtell must have thought he was in for a first half hat-trick as another inspired through-ball by Hews found him racing through on goal once more. This time Thurtell took the ball around the advancing McKewan, but perhaps his touch was a shade too heavy, forcing him to run the ball down near the left corner of the six-yard box before turning to hit a left-footed shot back in the direction of the goal only to find defender Jeremy Bates sliding in to make a brilliant block to prevent his team going into the break 5-0 down.
Regardless, with the Strikers 4-0 ahead as the teams went into the interval the contest looked as good as over, and the second half held mostly academic interest to see if the Spirit could prevent an embarrassing scoreline blowout.

They certainly came back out as if they meant business, with a determined run by Griffin down their left flank producing a cross that had the Strikers’ defence under pressure, and shortly afterwards Davis blasted a shot high over Chambers’ crossbar from twenty yards. But they were brought undone again when Burke nipped in to intercept a pass near the half way line and took off on a determined run towards goal that was halted inside the Spirit’s penalty area by a trip from Griffin, who received a yellow card for his troubles and was doubly punished by referee Jason Crow awarding an unsurprising penalty to the Strikers. Usual penalty taker Robinson then did the honourable thing as skipper, deferring to Thurtell who took the spot kick and sent McKewan the wrong way to clinch his hat trick.

So it was 5-0 to the Strikers after 54 minutes, and this became 6-0 in the fifty-sixth when, on the counter-attack, Thurtell collected a pass near his left touchline before moving swiftly inside to find Burke to his right with a twenty-yard crossfield pass. The pacy winger then rounded a defender before dribbling into the visitors’ penalty area to send his delayed shot past McKewan for his second goal in consecutive games.

The danger of a scoreboard blowout was now very real, and despite the Strikers making three substitutions – bringing on Jordan Mason for Hews, John Costello for Robinson and Chris Maher for Sipi, the scoring chances continued to come. What transpired, however, was a series of near misses most notably for Thurtell, who could easily have bagged a second hat trick had his finishing been better, but also for Burke and Di Sipio who both missed the target with clear-cut shooting opportunities while King lobbed a shot from twenty yards on to the roof of the Spirit’s net.

To Bundaberg’s credit, however, they played some good football themselves at times, refusing to resort to negative tactics or to simply club the ball away to safety. Instead they focused on playing passing football when in possession, often to good effect. They very nearly scored when Zac Freeburn’s curling half-volley after a throw-in taken on the right touchline went just wide of Chambers’ far post. But they eventually got the consolation that their football deserved when, with six minutes remaing, Chambers punched clear from a corner kick and the ball dropped just inside the Strikers’ penalty area to substitute Elliot Causer. The Strikers’ defence, for once, was hesitant and allowed Causer time to club the ball with his right foot back into the crowded Strikers’ six yard box where it eluded everyone to finish in the back of Chambers’ net.

Strikers coach David Large sounded an ominous warning for the rest of the teams in the league when he said after the match that his team, who tonight lead the competition by ten points, were not yet satisfied with their performances.

“We’re certainly not happy to be in this position where we are at – we want to be at the next level”, Large said. “And we are working hard to go there. Where that level is, I’m not really sure yet, but hopefully it is somewhere around September or October time (that) we’ll be in a better place than were we are now”.
Large also said he was not happy with conceding a goal at the end of the game.

“I was very disappointed to concede at the end. I think that we had the game by the scruff of the neck and I think we tended in the second half to maybe overplay the ball a little bit, and played too much of a passing game, and I think we forgot to go forward at times”, he said. “But in saying that, all due respect to Bundaberg. They worked hard in that second half when I thought they may have faltered a little bit. They chased a lot of ball but they kept going and I suppose if I was their coach I’d be happy that they got some reward for their effort”.

Bundaberg assistant coach Peter Martin backed up Large’s sentiments with his own appraisal of the game.

“You can’t take away from the Strikers, they were awesome – especially (in the) first half”, Martin said. “I think they could have just about beaten anyone, first half. But in the second half we regrouped. It was only 2-1 in the second half so we’ll take a bit of hope out of that”.

Bundaberg skipper Jack Hambrecht, who had to leave the field with a hamstring injury midway through the first half, said his team had paid the penalty for giving the Strikers too much latitude early in the game.

“We didn’t really play well enough in the first half – we weren’t close enough to them”, Hambrecht said. “There was too much room for them to move, and give them room to move and they’ll hurt you, that’s for sure”.

Brisbane Strikers: David Chambers (gk), Josh Searle, Nick Robinson, Alex Henderson, Chay Hews, Michael Angus, Chris Di Sipio, Greg King, Sean Burke, Lorenzo Sipi, Matt Thurtell. Playing substitutes: Chris Maher, Jordan Mason, John Costello. Non-playing substitutes: Jack Boxell.

Bundaberg Spirit: Jason McKewan (gk), Matthew Mills, Joel Haack, Adam Ormsby, Zac Freeburn, Jeremy Bates, Brendan Griffin, Luke Leggett, Jack Hambrecht (c), Brendan Davis, Tom Evans. Playing substitutes: Elliot Causer, Shane Youngberry. Non-playing substitutes: Josh Metcalf, Cory Holzberger (rgk).

Match statistics:

Shots on goal: Strikers 23, Spirit 7
Shots on target: Strikers 8, Spirit 4
Crosses: Strikers 5, Spirit 5
Crosses into dangerous areas: Strikers 4, Spirit 4
Corners: Strikers 3, Spirit 2
Fouls: Strikers 10, Spirit 7
Offsides: Strikers 1, Spirit 1
Yellow cards: Griffin (Spirit)
Red cards: None

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